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Volume 27, No. 7 – July 2014

Volume 27, No. 7
Editor: Stephen L. Seftenberg

President’s Message

Long-standing member of the Round Table Dr. Marsha Sonnenblick passed away on May 28th. Marsha gave terrific programs on Civil War medicine and the sociological aspects of the War. Her presentations were well-researched and extremely organized. The highest attendance at a meeting was given by Marsha, and the topic was "Sex and the Civil War." Our deepest condolence to her husband, Bernie, and the entire family.

Future Programs

If anyone has a suggestion for a future program or would like to make a presentation, please call Gerridine LaRovere at 561 967-8911 or e-mail The entire Board would like to thank everyone who contributed to the Speaker’s Fund. This enabled the Round Table to have a variety of outside speakers this year.

July 9, 2014 Program

Steve Seftenberg will present a different approach to the Battle of Shiloh April 6-7. 1862, entitled, "Myths Abound About the Battle of Shiloh/Pittsburgh Landing." Steve’s position is that the standard account of Shiloh is filled with myth than fact. No less an authority than Ulysses S. Grant, the Union commander at the fight, wrote after the war that Shiloh "has been . . . more persistently misunderstood than any other engagement . . . during the entire rebellion." One-sided newspaper reporting and repeated campfire stories that added to, enlarged and painted a distorted picture of actual events infects modern historical accounts.

June 11, 2014 Program

Craig Freis has been collecting autographs, historical documents, and old newspapers for over forty years. Craig brought actual editions of newspapers such as The New York Times and the New York Herald dated between 1850 and 1870. Round Table members had the rare opportunity to read about social, economic, and political topics, as well as news and casualty lists from the battlefront from newspapers printed contemporaneously. Unfortunately, your Editor’s attempts to photograph some of the more interesting pages was a flop. The attendees wanted Mr. Freis to come back when we can give him a bigger audience.


First Florida Special Battalion

The First Florida Special Battalion entered Confederate service at Fernandina in September 1861 with a total of 577 officers and men. The unit, initially commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Daniel P. Holland, served first as heavy artillery before being reorganized as infantry on November 13, 1861. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, Charles F. Hopkins became commander in May 1862 and would serve until the end of the war.

The First Battalion became part of General Finegan's brigade, engaging in all the operations against the Union forces during their occupation of Jacksonville. After the evacuation of Amelia Island and Fernandina, the battalion participated in the actions at St. Johns Bluff in September-October 1862 and Jacksonville in March 1863. Various companies also guarded the Apalachicola River from Union attack. In the summer of 1863, the First Battalion was ordered to reinforce the defenses at Savannah, Georgia, but the unit would return to Florida in time to defend the state against the Federal invasion in early 1864. The First Battalion entered the battle of Olustee with approximately 400 enlisted men and 20 officers. The unit was held in reserve until the latter part of the battle when, according to a participant, it "went to the rescue" of General Colquitt’s 64th Georgia, whose ammunition was nearly exhausted. The men "went in double-quick time" and "struck right in the center of the battle." Lieutenant Colonel Charles F. Hopkins commanded the battalion, which suffered official casualties of three killed and forty-seven wounded. Lieutenant Colonel Hopkins

received slight wounds in his arm and thigh. Lieutenant S. K. Collins, Company E, was slightly wounded in the face, and Lieutenant Theophilus Williams, Company F, received a slight chest wound. After the battle, the unit stayed in Florida until the spring of 1864, when it was sent to reinforce the Army of Northern Virginia. In June, the First Battalion, along with four companies from the Second Florida Infantry Battalion, consolidated and became the new Tenth Florida Infantry Regiment. The Tenth fought through the Petersburg Campaign of 1864-1865 and surrendered 154 men at Appomattox.

Battle of Fort Pillow

MassacreOn April 12, 1864, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest led his troops against the Union-held Fort Pillow in Lauderdale County, Tennessee. The fort, with its roughly 600 troops fairly evenly divided between white and black soldiers, didn’t stand much of a chance against Forrest’s 1,500 to 2,500 men, surrounded as they were and being fired on by sharpshooters. To add to that, the Union gunboat U. S. N. New Era failed to engage the Confederates, and the Federals were unable to depress their artillery enough to effectively fire on their attackers. Forrest demanded an unconditional surrender from the fort, which the Union commander refused, so Forrest’s troops overran the fort, forcing the Union troops to flee to the river bluff.

What happened next remains a matter of controversy, though the general consensus is that Confederate troops slaughtered the fleeing black troops, some as they were trying to surrender. The North was outraged by the news of what became known as the Fort Pillow Massacre, and the tragedy renewed Northern support for the war. The Confederates, who afterwards denied a deliberate, intentional slaughter, left Fort Pillow that same night without gaining much advantage from their victory. Military historian David J. Eicher concluded, "Fort Pillow marked one of the bleakest, saddest events of American military history."

Jesse Johnson Finley, A Florida Confederate General

FinleyFinley was born near Lebanon, Tennessee, on November 18, 1812, and served as captain of mounted volunteers in the Seminole War of 1836. He was admitted to the bar in 1838, was a presidential elector on the Whig ticket in 1852 and served as a judge of the western circuit of Florida from 1853 to 1861. Finley was appointed judge of the Confederate States court for the district of Florida in 1861. He resigned in March 1862 and volunteered as a private in the 6th Florida Infantry of the Confederate Army, and was successively promoted to be the Colonel of the regiment. He took part in the Kentucky Campaign in Major General Edmund Kirby Smith's column. His first significant combat came at the Battle of Chickamauga, where his regiment captured a battery of Union artillery, but was unsupported and forced to withdraw with 165 casualties. Promoted to brigadier general November 8, 1863, he commanded "Finley’s Brigade," of Florida infantry in Major General John C. Breckinridge's division in the Army of Tennessee. His command was caught up in the Confederate rout at the Battle of Missionary Ridge, but performed well in protecting the rearguard of the army. General Braxton Bragg expressed his thanks to Finley for ". . . his gallant bearing and prompt assistance in every emergency." Finley’s Brigade saw heavy fighting in the Atlanta Campaign of 1864. He was badly wounded at Resaca and placed on medical leave until the army reached Atlanta. At the Battle of Jonesborough, his horse was killed by artillery shell fragments, which severely wounded him again, but he refused to be evacuated to Atlanta until all of his wounded men had been cared for. Finley surrendered with Major General Howell Cobb in Columbus, Georgia, and was paroled in Quincy, Florida, on May 23, 1865.

After the war he served a part of three consecutive terms in the House of Representatives but in 1887 was refused a seat in the United States Senate based on a technicality (his appointment was made before the vacancy occurred). Finley died November 6, 1904 in Lake City, Florida and is interred in Evergreen Cemetery, Gainesville, Florida.


Last changed:  07/03/14

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